NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Panelists at this year’s Andros Business Outlook plan to make the case that boutique accommodations, ecotourism and agritourism make the island attractive to international and domestic travelers.
The Counsellors Limited will host the eighth annual Andros Business Outlook under the theme ‘A New Era: Resilience in the Face of Vulnerability’ on July 24.
Conference speakers say that the island’s unique offerings—a network of boutique accommodations, ecotourism fueled by sustainable natural resources, and diversification through agritourism—have the potential to stimulate the Bahamian economy as it rebounds from COVID-19.
“A lot of Bahamian tourism is based on mass tourism, but Andros took a different path,” said Peter Douglas, Senior Manager of the Andros Tourist Office.
Douglas will speak on the topic “The Competitiveness of Andros: Sustainability, Diversification & Innovation”.
“Andros didn’t get an anchor project,” Douglas said.
“We took a sustainable tourism path and developed the small hotel industry. So therefore, we are now the leaders in the tourism industry in The Bahamas because the new normal market is not looking for mass tourism.
“Travelers are looking for those small, intimate resort properties where they can be away from big crowds. With this new normal, our future is looking bright in tourism development and the tourism industry moving forward in Andros.”
Douglas believes that to maintain that ‘bright future’, developers on Andros must build and outfit their properties according to market demands and capitalize on the island’s resources.
He points to properties like Swain’s Cay Lodge in Mangrove Cay as an example of a development that “got it right” and a leader who “really understands the industry.”
Cheryl Bastian has been hosting anglers and divers at Swain’s Cay Lodge since 2006.
She plans to bring her expertise to Andros Business Outlook in a presentation about how small to medium accommodations will help to drive tourism in the future.
Emphasizing that tourism opportunities must be managed at a local level, Bastian added: “We don’t need any additional foreign investment. Bahamians can do this. Let’s incentivize them. Let’s do real meaningful things to develop our culture. I think when we do that visitors will find that they have more meaningful vacations and it’s going to help the economy in a great way.”
Douglas echoed the sentiment that the success of Andros in the global tourism industry hinges on its ability to effectively manage cultural and natural resources.
According to Douglas, the Andros Tourist Office has already begun working with the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) in North Andros to shore up the saltwater fly fishing industry.
Douglas underscored the industry is the most stable and most productive tourism attraction for Andros, pumping $47 million dollars into the island per year.
Through a partnership between the Ministry of Tourism and the Inter-American Development Bank, BAMSI now offers a certification course for fly fishing guides that prioritizes sustainability, environmental responsibility, and carbon reduction.
It is model Douglas hopes will be replicated to train nature guides, birdwatch guides, scuba dive masters, and small hotel development.
Dr Raveenia Roberts-Hanna, BAMSI’s Executive Director, is scheduled to speak at Andros Business Outlook about how her organization is leading change in agriculture throughout Andros and other Family Islands.
According to Dr Roberts-Hanna, from BAMSI’s partnership with the Andros Tourist Office to its soon-to-be implemented conservation course in partnership with the Bahamas National Trust, the institution “will have great economic impact for the islands and capacity building of sectors through skills training”.
Andros Business Outlook will be held at the BAMSI compound, where social distancing and other public health guidelines will be followed.
The one-day conference concludes with a tour of the BAMSI compound.